Foods and Drinks You Must Try on a Trip to Peru

by | May 4, 2024 | Peru Travel Blogs | 0 comments

best Peruvian food Before visit Machu Picchu

Peruvian Culinary Delights: A Taste of Peru’s Rich Food Culture

Peruvian cuisine, a compelling fusion of flavors and cultures, stands as one of the most diverse and innovative culinary scenes in the world.

Its history spans thousands of years, incorporating pre-Inca and Inca traditions, Spanish colonial influences, as well as African, Asian, and European contributions.

This rich tapestry has given rise to a food culture that is both deeply traditional and vibrantly contemporary, making Peruvian culinary delights a must-explore for any food enthusiast.

Savoring Peruvian Food: A Gastronomic Adventure from Lima City, Cusco, and Machu Picchu

The Rich History of Peruvian Cuisine

Peruvian cuisine is a melting pot of diverse influences. Blending native Peruvian flavors with Spanish, African, Asian, and even Italian culinary traditions. This harmonious fusion has birthed a unique gastronomic identity, offering an explosion of tastes and textures on every plate.

Peruvian cuisine is a rich tapestry woven with threads of ancient roots and a culinary heritage that spans thousands of years.

At its core, Peruvian gastronomy is a vibrant mosaic influenced by pre-Inca, Inca, and Colonial culinary traditions.

Pre-Inca Influences

Before the Inca Empire. Various civilizations, such as the Moche, Nazca, and Chavín, cultivated a diverse array of crops along Peru’s diverse landscapes.

These civilizations left a lasting impact on Peruvian agriculture, introducing ingredients like quinoa, amaranth, and tubers.

Related Post: Learn How to Rich Machu Picchu in 4 days travel Guide

Inca Contributions

The Inca Empire, with its advanced agricultural practices, further shaped the culinary landscape.

The terrace farming system known as “andenería” allowed the Inca people to cultivate crops at different altitudes. Contributing to the diverse array of ingredients available in Peruvian cuisine today.

Colonial Blends

The Spanish arrival in the 16th century brought European ingredients such as wheat, livestock, and citrus fruits.

This fusion of Old World and New World ingredients laid the foundation for the mestizo cuisine that emerged during the Colonial period.

Combining indigenous and European flavors.

In essence, the roots of Peruvian cuisine run deep. Reflecting a dynamic interplay of ancient traditions, diverse landscapes, and a reverence for indigenous ingredients.

The culinary heritage of Peru is a living testament to the country’s resilience, creativity, and enduring connection to its historical roots.

Key Ingredients in Peruvian Cooking

The foundation of Peruvian cuisine lies in its bountiful natural resources, from the Pacific coast, across the Andes, to the Amazon rainforest. Quinoa, once called “the mother of all grains” by the Incas, is a versatile and nutritious staple.

Aji Amarillo, a spicy yellow chili pepper, adds depth and color to many dishes. The abundant seafood, including anchovies, shellfish, and hundreds of fish varieties, fuels the creativity of Peru’s coastal cooks. Together, these ingredients create a flavor palate that is distinctly Peruvian.

Peruvian Ceviche

This one has to be first. It’s Peru’s national dish, and it’s unique, healthy, and so scrumptious.

It’s at the heart of Peruvian cuisine and you absolutely must try it. It has a strong, spicy, and acidic flavor, so some foreigners are caught off guard.

But keep an open mind; it is SO good! The famous ceviche is made of raw fish marinate it and “cooked” in a mixture of lime juice, garlic, ginger, cilantro, hot peppers, and other ingredients.

It seriously turns color from raw pink to cooked white, as if it had been cooked with heat! That is then served on top of lettuce and sliced purple onions and with boiled Inca corn, sweet potatoes, fried cuttlefish, corn nuts, and maybe plantain chips on the side.

Give it a chance; you won’t be disappointed! After the ceviche, you’ll be served a yummy fish soup called Chilcano.

Arroz con Mariscos (Rice with Seafood)

After indulging in a zesty and refreshing ceviche, a serving of Arroz con Mariscos blends perfectly into the Peruvian culinary journey.

This dish is a harmonious medley of seafood and rice, where each spoonful brings a symphony of flavors.

The rice, tinged red with a rich sauce made from tomatoes and dried aji peppers, serves as a bed for a generous assortment of seafood – including tender pieces of octopus, calamari, mussels, clams, prawns, and scallops.

The inclusion of green peas, garlic, and onion not only adds to its vibrant color but enriches the dish with layers of flavors and textures.

Lomo Saltado – Fusion on a Plate

Lomo Saltado stands as a vibrant testament to Peru’s rich cultural tapestry, blending Chinese stir-fry methods with native Peruvian ingredients.

This dish features succulent beef strips stir-fried in a wok with crisp vegetables, aromatic Peruvian spices, and a splash of soy sauce, showcasing a perfect melding of flavors.

Accompanied by either rice or potatoes, it deliciously embodies Peru’s diverse culinary heritage.

Cuy (Guinea Pig)

Did you know that guinea pigs are native to the Andes?

Since before Europe introduced cows, pigs, and chickens to South America, even before the Inca Empire began, guinea pigs were domesticated as a main source of protein for locals.

As a testament to that, the Cusco Cathedral houses a painting of the famous Last Supper, but in the center of the table is a cooked guinea pig!

It can be baked with local herbs like Huacatay or it can be fried. Its taste is gamey and wild, and it’s often served whole, with its head, tail, feet, and even nails!

Arroz con Pollo (Rice with Chicken)

Some think cilantro tastes like soap, but you’ll never hear a Peruvian say that!

It’s a key ingredient in various dishes across Peru, manifesting its vibrant flavor, particularly in Arroz con Pollo.

This dish isn’t just about chicken and rice; it’s an art form where a generous quantity of fresh cilantro is blended and cooked together with the chicken, infusing the dish with its distinct, lively green hue.

Vegetables such as diced carrots, bell peppers, green peas, and even giant Inca corn are added, enriching the dish with a plethora of textures and flavors.

The resulting combination is a savory, aromatic green rice that captures the essence of Peruvian cuisine. Often, Arroz con Pollo is enjoy alongside other Peruvian classics like ceviche and papa a la Huancaina or Carapulcra con sopa seca, creating delightful culinary combinations that speak volumes of the country’s rich food culture.

Papa a la Huancaina

The yellow aji pepper, native to Peru, plays a pivotal role in the nation’s cuisine, bringing its unmistakable flavor and warmth to many dishes. Among the most celebrated uses of this pepper is in the creation of a creamy, spicy sauce known as Huancaina.

This delightful sauce drapes over boiled potatoes, giving birth to the acclaimed Papa a la Huancaina. Its creamy texture and unique taste make it a beloved starter or side dish in Peru. Transitioning from potatoes to poultry, the same foundational ingredients morph to produce Aji de Gallina.

Aji de Gallina.

This dish involves shredded chicken bathed in a similar yellow aji pepper sauce. Served on a bed of lettuce, adorned with boiled eggs and black olives, and accompanied by fluffy white rice, Aji de Gallina offers a comforting balance of creaminess and heat.

The beauty of these dishes lies in their adaptability to varying heat preferences; by removing the seeds and veins, the peppers lose their spiciness, allowing even those with mild palates to enjoy the vibrant flavors of Peruvian cuisine.

Stuffed Chilly Pepper Vegetables in Peruvian Cuisine

Peruvian cuisine showcases its versatility and creativity through the art of stuffing vegetables with rich, flavorful fillings. A hallmark of this tradition is the stuffed rocoto pepper.

Rocoto peppers, known for being the spiciest in Peru, transform when stuffed and either fried or baked, resulting in a milder flavor that’s palatable to more taste preferences.

The filling, often a mix of savory shredded chicken or ground beef, is combined with diced carrots, green peas, boiled eggs, black olives, and cubes of cheese, creating a hearty and satisfying meal.

Alongside the fiery rocoto, Antigua,—a hollow, long, green vegetable native to the region—is similarly prepared, stuffed with the same flavorful mix, and baked to perfection.

The method extends to the humble potato and the versatile yucca, both of which can be boiled, mashed, and formed into pockets ready to be stuffed and then fried, offering a delightful texture contrast between the crispy exterior and the soft, flavorful interior.

Pachamanca and Huatia: Peru’s Earth Oven Delicacies

Venturing further into the heart of Peruvian culinary traditions, one encounters the ancient cooking methods of Pachamanca and Huatia. These methods transcend the conventional kitchen apparatus to utilize a more primal cooking technique—an earthen and stone oven buried underground.

Intriguingly, ‘Pachamanca’ and ‘Huatia’ are terms that refer to versions of the same cooking practice, yet are called differently across various parts of the Peruvian Andes.

The essence of these dishes lies in their preparation, which involves layering local ingredients such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, Inca corn, meats like chicken, guinea pig, and pork, trout, haba beans, plantains, and tamales.

All of these are seasoned with local herbs and cooked within the earth, drawing flavors from the land itself.

Chupe de Camarones 

This rich and creamy stew hails from Arequipa, a Peruvian city renowned for its culinary delights.

Crafted from a base of fish broth and tomatoes, it’s a medley of flavors featuring not just shrimp or crawfish, but also potatoes, Inca corn on the cob, haba beans, cabbage, squash, and poached eggs.

Enhanced with milk, cheese, parsley, and Huacatay, a local herb, this chowder is a testament to the region’s gastronomic history.

Originally evolving from a traditional llama stew predating Incan times, the introduction of eggs, milk, cheese, and the practice of shrimp fishing by the Spanish transformed it into the delicacy known today.

Celebrated by CNN as one of the 20 Best Soups in the World, it’s a true culinary masterpiece.

Delightful Peruvian Desserts to Enjoy

Picarones

Picarones, a popular Peruvian street food, are sweet doughnuts made from sweet potato flour, deep-fried to a golden crisp, and drizzled with spice honey.

A delightful treat, perfect for cool evenings in Lima or Cusco.

Alfajores Made with Manjar Blanco

Alfajores, a popular Latin American cookie, vary by region but in Peru, they’re found everywhere from markets to street carts.

Made by sandwiching two soft, corn flour-based cookies with Manjar Blanco (a sweet caramel cream similar to dulce de leche) and dusted with powdered sugar.

These delicate, crumbly cookies pair wonderfully with coffee or hot chocolate.

Turrón de Doña Pepa

Turron de Dona Pepa, a beloved Peruvian dessert, is traditionally made in October for the Lord of Miracles celebrations but is available year-round. It features layers of anise-flavored cookies bound with chancaca syrup and is topped with colorful sprinkles.

Suspiro de Limeña

Suspiro de Limeña, a classic Peruvian dessert originating from 19th-century Lima, is named “sigh of the lady from Lima.”

It features a Manjar blanco (dulce de leche) base, topped with port meringue and cinnamon.

Crema Volteada

Crema volteada, known as the Peruvian version of caramel custard, is a popular dessert in Peru.

It’s a light and sweet dish, similar to a mix of gelatin and cheesecake, and is easy to make with just whole milk, eggs, sugar, and vanilla.

Pionono

The Peruvian Pionono, similar to a jelly roll, is a decadent dessert filled with Manjar blanco, giving it a unique Peruvian twist. Enjoyed as a sweet snack with coffee or as a cake for parties, this treat, although not native to Peru, is celebrated for its local flavor.

Lucuma Ice Cream

Lucuma, a delicious fruit from the Peruvian highlands, is ideal for desserts like ice cream, cakes, and candies.

Its unique sweet and maple-like flavor is hard to describe but can be likened to a mix of snickerdoodle cookie and pumpkin spice latte, with a starchy yet creamy texture. Despite sounding unusual, it is incredibly delicious.

Mazamorra Morada

Mazamorra Morada is a unique Peruvian dessert made from purple corn, with a jelly-like consistency and a fruity, cinnamon flavor.

It combines water, purple corn, and various fruits, thickened with sweet potato flour and topped with cinnamon, offering a distinctive and delicious taste experience.

Famous Peruvian Drinks

Of course, no meal is complete without refreshments. Here are some you can find in Peru!

  • Chicha Morada – A traditional beverage made from purple corn, sweetened with pineapple, and spiced with cinnamon and cloves. This refreshing drink is a staple in Peruvian culture and is often enjoyed with meals.
  • Coca Tea – A hot tea made from native coca leaves, renowned for its effectiveness in alleviating nausea and helping with altitude sickness. A must-try for visitors to the high-altitude regions of Peru.
  • Inka Muña Tea – Whether served hot or cold, this tea made from local Andean mint is delicious. Its fragrant aroma and soothing properties make it a popular choice among both locals and tourists.
  • Passion Fruit Juice – A breakfast favorite or a refreshing drink for any time of day. Its delightful sourness and energy-boosting properties make it a popular choice.
  • Inka Cola – Peru’s most beloved soda, characterized by its bright yellow color and unique bubble gum flavor. Its popularity even led the Coca-Cola company to acquire the brand.
  • Emolliente – A hot, medicinal beverage sold from street carts, brewed from a blend of local herbs and ingredients like barley, horsetail, cat’s claw, flax, lime juice, pineapple, lemongrass, chamomile, plantain leaf, and alfalfa sprouts. It’s revered for its health benefits.
  • Oregano Tea – Surprisingly, oregano is not just for savory dishes. When brewed as a tea and sweetened with a bit of sugar, it offers a comforting remedy for an upset stomach and provides a delightful herbal taste.

Peruvian Alcoholic soft drinks

Pisco Sour – The national drink of Peru, crafted with grape liquor produced in Pisco, Peru. It’s a lime-based cocktail that embodies South American flair, perfect for warming up on cold nights. Variants include delightful local fruits like mango, strawberry, and passion fruit.

Chicha de Jora – A traditional fermented corn beer from the Peruvian Andes, made from native Inca corn. It plays a vital role in the daily lives of workers in the countryside, often consumed throughout the day instead of water. Although it’s an acquired taste and might not suit everyone’s palate, especially tourists, its significance in Peruvian culture is undeniable.

Regional Variations in Peruvian Cuisine

The diversity of Peru’s geography results in distinct regional cuisines. In the Andes, hearty stews and corn-based dishes dominate, while the Amazon offers unique fruits and river fish specialties. The coastal region, meanwhile, showcases Peru’s extraordinary seafood bounty. Each area contributes unique flavors and techniques to the national cuisine.

Peruvian cuisine is a culinary gem that has captivated food enthusiasts worldwide. Its distinct ingredients and flavors showcase the nation’s vast cultural wealth and varied geography.

The gastronomic landscape of Peru is a vibrant tapestry of bold flavors, vivid colors, and unparalleled ingredients, stretching from its coastal regions, across the majestic Andes, to the lush Amazonian rainforest. Here are a few shining examples.

Ceviche stands as a quintessential dish of Peruvian gastronomy. Celebrated as the epitome of freshness, this exquisite seafood dish marries the acidity of lime juice with the heat of aji peppers, the crispness of onions, and the aromatic allure of cilantro. The marinated raw fish or shellfish soaks up the tangy essence of the lime, unleashing a flavor burst that pays homage to Peru’s coastal bounty.

Traditional Peruvian Cooking Methods

Traditional cooking methods, such as pachamanca—a process where food is cooked underground with hot stones.

Reflect the deep connection between Peruvian culture and its environment. Indigenous communities continue to preserve these culinary traditions, passing them down through generations and keeping the soul of Peruvian cuisine alive.

Global Impact of Peruvian Cuisine

Peruvian restaurants have consistently ranked among the best globally, earning prestigious awards. Central, Maido, and Astrid y Gastón are just a few examples of establishments that have secured top spots on coveted lists like The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, putting Peru firmly on the culinary map.

Peruvian cuisine’s meteoric rise to international acclaim is punctuated by a plethora of prestigious accolades and awards that have recognized the country’s culinary prowess. These accolades not only celebrate individual chefs and restaurants but also solidify Peru’s place on the global gastronomic stage.

Michelin Stars in Peru:

In recent years, the prestigious Michelin Guide has set its gaze on Peru, acknowledging the exceptional culinary experiences offered by its restaurants.

Lima, in particular, has become a Michelin-starred destination, with establishments like Central and Maido earning well-deserved stars.

This recognition places Peruvian gastronomy in an elite global culinary league.

Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants:

Peru consistently dominates Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list, a testament to the country’s vibrant culinary scene.

Renowned establishments such as Central, Maido, and Astrid y Gastón regularly secure top positions, showcasing the diversity and innovation embedded in Peruvian cuisine.

Recognition at the World’s 50 Best Restaurants:

Peru’s culinary excellence extends to the global stage, with several of its restaurants featured on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.

This prestigious ranking acknowledges the exceptional quality, creativity, and cultural significance of Peruvian dining establishments, drawing international attention to the country’s gastronomic treasures.

Gastronomic Festivals and Awards:

Peru’s gastronomic festivals, notably “Mistura,” have become showcases for the nation’s culinary brilliance.

Beyond celebrating established chefs, these events also provide a platform for emerging talents and regional specialties.

Various awards within these festivals recognize the dedication, innovation, and authenticity that define Peruvian culinary contributions.

Culinary Diplomacy and Cultural Exchange:

Peruvian cuisine has become a powerful tool for culinary diplomacy. The government actively promotes the country’s gastronomy on the global stage.

Fostering cultural exchange through food. Chefs and culinary ambassadors act as cultural emissaries, showcasing Peru’s rich heritage and diverse flavors through gastronomic events worldwide.

Peruvian Chefs on the Global Stage:

Individual Peruvian chefs have achieved international recognition and acclaim, becoming ambassadors for the country’s culinary identity.

Their presence at global culinary events, participation in international collaborations, and contributions to gastronomic literature contribute to a broader understanding and appreciation of Peruvian cuisine.

Sustainable and Responsible Practices:

Peru’s culinary community is increasingly recognized for its commitment to sustainable and responsible practices.

Chefs and restaurants emphasize the use of local, seasonal ingredients, support for indigenous communities, and eco-friendly initiatives.

This dedication to sustainability adds an extra layer of distinction to Peru’s culinary narrative.

Tips for Experiencing Peruvian Food Culture

For those wanting to dive into Peruvian food culture, consider visiting famed restaurants in Lima or enrolling in a culinary tour.

Food festivals, such as Mistura, offer a taste of the nation’s regional dishes and ingredients. Whether it’s dining at a top restaurant or exploring street food markets, there are endless opportunities to savor the richness of Peruvian cuisine.

Exploring Peru’s Top Restaurants

Central

This establishment is acclaimed as the finest restaurant globally, under the leadership of Virgilio Martinez.

It showcases dishes that mirror the vast diversity of the nation’s landscapes and cultural heritage, with a significant focus on incorporating native ingredients from different elevations and ecosystems across Peru.

Astrid & Gaston – Lima

Astrid & Gaston, located in Lima, stands as one of the premier dining destinations, championed by the renowned Peruvian chefs Astrid Gutsche and Gaston Acurio.

Acurio, having left law school for his culinary passion, met Astrid in Paris at Le Cordon Bleu. The duo then returned to Peru, initially opening a French restaurant before embracing the rich Peruvian ingredients to revolutionize their dishes.

Today, Acurio is a symbol of Peruvian culture, gastronomy, and biodiversity, owning 11 restaurants worldwide.

Astrid & Gaston offers a dynamic menu that changes biannually, featuring innovative dishes like Cuy Pekines and the celebrated Punch A&G, encapsulating the essence of Peruvian culinary art with prices ranging from $60 to $80 for a three-course meal.

La Mar Cevicheria Lima

Gaston Acurio’s prestigious eatery, “La Mar,” has locations in Buenos Aires, Bogota, Miami, and San Francisco, and stands as a testament to his culinary influence. Specializing as a Cevicheria, it offers a blend of modern, elegant decor focusing on Peruvian seafood, including the national dish, Ceviche.

The restaurant features a modern bar serving Pisco Sour and the “Cholopolitan” specialty. Located in Lima’s tourist-friendly Miraflores district, “La Mar” is known for its Ceviche and other Peruvian marine dishes, attracting guests with its visually appealing setting and the promise of fresh, high-quality ingredients.

However, it’s popular and fills up quickly, operating only at noon to ensure the freshness of its offerings.

Maido – Lima Peru

Maido, founded in 2009 by Chef Mitsuharu Tsumura in Peru, is renowned for its exceptional Nikkei cuisine, a blend of Peruvian and Japanese gastronomy.

Tsumura’s educational background in Culinary Arts and Food and Beverage Administration, combined with his specialization in Japanese cuisine, has significantly influenced Maido’s success.

The restaurant, symbolizing “Welcome” in Japanese, showcases dishes incorporating fresh ingredients and fusion cooking techniques, with sushi as its flagship offering.

Maido’s menu also features popular dishes like Tiradito, known for its exquisite sauce, alongside a variety of Peruvian and Japanese flavors, establishing it as a flagship of Peruvian gastronomy.

La Chicha – Cusco

Chicha, the first Cusco restaurant by famed Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio, is named after a traditional Incan drink and focuses on blending native Andean ingredients like quinoa and corn with international cooking techniques.

Creating unforgettable Novo Andean cuisine dishes. From its unique beverages to innovative main dishes and desserts.

Chicha offers a culinary experience that celebrates native Peruvian ingredients while introducing diners to modern flavors, making it a top recommendation for anyone visiting Cusco.

Cicciolina – Cusco

The Cicciolina Restaurant in Cusco blends famous Italian cuisine with Peruvian flavors, offering unique dishes like shrimp with coconut, pumpkin ravioli, and quinoa prawns.

Housed in a remodeled Tuscan-style mansion, it features a cozy ambiance with rustic decor. A tapas bar, diverse menu, and excellent service complete the experience, making reservations essential due to its popularity.

Mil – Cusco Sacred Valley

Immerse yourself in a distinctive dining experience in the Sacred Valley, where breathtaking Andean vistas serve as your backdrop.

This restaurant not only offers exquisite cuisine and an exceptional atmosphere but also gives you a genuine taste of Andean culture and traditions.

At the helm is the renowned Chef Virgilio Martinez, ensuring an unforgettable culinary journey.

Limo Restaurant – Cusco Peru

This establishment crafts cuisine that merges international and local flavors, inspired by the diverse cultural influences found in Cusco.

Beyond exquisite meals, guests relish its inviting ambiance and the stunning vista overlooking Plaza de Armas.

Conclusion

Peruvian culinary delights offer an unparalleled flavor adventure, reflecting the country’s diverse ecosystems, history, and cultural influences.

From tasting ceviche beside the Pacific, and enjoying a hearty Andean stew, to sampling native Amazonian fruits, the flavors of Peru are as diverse as they are captivating.

We invite our readers to share their own experiences and thoughts on Peru’s food culture and to join us in celebrating the remarkable diversity of Peruvian cuisine.

Your culinary voyage awaits—how will you experience the rich tapestry of Peruvian food culture? Share your adventures, favorites, and must-try dishes in the comments below.

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Cesar Conde

I’m Cesar Conde, owner of Tour Leaders Peru & Travel Advisor and my other side job is Nomadic Digital. I share my own amazing Tour Experiences, travel stories, guides, and itineraries for travelers like you and me!

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